Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I want to be in the Light...

I'm going through a lot of "new beginnings" in my life and so a little time in the Bible's "new beginning" seems appropriate.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). God is a creator. The fact that the Bible begins with a declaration of God's creative work is perhaps predictable in light of the fact of what God has done and what God has continued to do throughout the ages of time. He creates! He creates worlds. He creates life to fill those worlds. He creates emotions, thoughts, music, history, and best of all, He creates people. A very meaningful verse of scripture to me has always been 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come". God's creative work is even seen in His reconciliatory work of salvation on our behalf. All of us who are "in Christ" are new creatures (new creations that have never existed before). Perhaps it's not too much of a stretch to see spiritual creation symbolized in the Genesis narrative. Let's take a look.

"The earth was formless (confused) and void (empty) and darkness was over the surface of the deep . . . " (Genesis 1:2). Have you ever felt confused and empty? Have you ever felt like you were living in darkness--in the deep places (what we might call in over your head)? I'm sure that we've all been there but it is of course most pronounced when we are living without Christ in our life.

" . . . and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters" (Genesis 1:2). I love this part. In the midst of our darkness, the Spirit of God is moving over the surface of our lives. When all appears to be out of control--the truth is that God is still in control. His Spirit is moving. I have just come through a very difficult stage in my life...but the Spirit was moving across the darkness. You may be in depression...but the Spirit of God is moving. You may not have a job...but the Spirit is moving. You may be recovering from a marital breakup...but the Spirit is moving.

"Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day" (Genesis 1:3-5). Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life" (John 8:12). John's gospel begins with a declaration that Jesus was in the beginning with God at creation. Jesus is God and Jesus is, "the Light of men" (John 1:4). 1 John 1:5 continues the thought, "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). Jesus is the light that delivers us from our darkness. He separates us from the darkness and declares us good (righteous). It's interesting that on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was given to the infant church, a manifestation of fire over the heads of the believers could be seen. Fire, of course, produces light. May the light of the Gospel of grace hover over our heads as we penetrate the dark lostness all around us. I, for one, want to be in the light!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

As I see it . . .

Grace River will be a safe and nurturing place for the broken to heal.

Grace River will be highly relational--encouraging community built around the fellowship of suffering.

Grace River will operate under the assumption that everyone is recovering from something--a hurt, a hang-up, or a habit.

Grace River will celebrate and facilitate healthy recovery in the lives of its participants.

Grace River will encourage creative participation in each element of corporate worship.

Grace River will provide opportunity for participation in the five biblical purposes of the church: worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, and evangelism.

Grace River will seek to provide the necessary tools in order to facilitate abundant living by it's participants.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"They are like trees planted along the riverbank..."

"Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do" (Psalm 1:1-3, NLT).

The NASB uses three actions to translate these verses: walking, standing, and sitting. Don't walk with the wicked. Don't stand with sinners. Don't sit with mockers. The emphasis is on the progression of action--walking by--then standing around--finally sitting down and joining. Have you ever been walking by someone and overheard their conversation? Perhaps they were saying something so interesting or unusual that you slowed down and maybe even stopped so that you hear more of the story. Perhaps you even joined in by saying something like, "Excuse me, I couldn't help overhearing what you were saying about..." The very first Psalm is warning us to be careful about who we listen to--who we take advice from. The Psalmist is saying, don't make your decisions based on the word of sinners. Maybe we could define sinners in this specific context as cultural norms--the world's wisdom. My paraphrase would be, "If you want to be happy, don't live your life according to the world's conventional wisdom".

But rather, the Psalmist David says, "delight" in the Word of God--think about it all of the time!

Now here's the promise: #1--You'll bear fruit, #2--You will not wither, and #3--You will prosper! You will be just like a tree growing beside a river. We need to get our wisdom from the Bible. We need to make decisions based on the same values that the Scriptures declare. We need to hear from God in making every decision.

Tina and I struggled to reach a decision in terms of whether to continue on with Cornerstone or whether to get out of the boat and to join God in something new that we had never had the guts to attempt before. Each day for the past three months, we have been in the Word individually and at times as a couple, seeking to hear from God. The idea for Grace River began to slowly emerge over the past three months as I walked through the darkest and most painful days of my life. We believe without a doubt that Grace River is of God and we believe that He will cause it to bear fruit and prosper. I am asking God to allow the first fruit to be born this weekend--may we see someone give their life to Christ before the week is completed. May we see a new tree planted along the riverbank...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Turning the Page...

Tina and I are in the process of turning a page in our life. Last evening, I submitted my resignation to Cornerstone Baptist Church. We've been at Cornerstone for the past 9 1/2 years and so this has been a rather difficult page to turn.

Today, I am stepping forward into a new ministry--one that will be focused on helping those who do not find church to be a safe place (the broken, the downcast, and the abused). My experiences in attending Celebrate Recovery over the past three months have demonstrated to me what the fellowship of suffering (real fellowship) is all about--sharing our brokenness. We're all recovering from various hurts, habits, and hangups. Perhaps this new ministry can be about telling the truth about who we are and who we are not so that we can finally walk together into recovery. I firmly believe that we are all recovering from something. I heard someone say last Friday that they are recovering from self-righteousness. Yes!

I've been drawn to a name--"Grace River". A river is a collection of small streams that each began either from snow-melt high in the mountains or perhaps from a spring. These small streams flow together and become more powerful as they combine their resources into a larger river. A raging river can move boulders and even cut through rock forming great canyons given enough time. "Grace" is of course the "unmerited favor" that is available to each of us through the work of Christ on the cross. As we each walk in and share our individual experiences of God's grace we will find that a mighty river of grace has begun to flow.

It's worth noting that in the early part of the Bible we see that God uses a river to water the earth. "A river flowed from the land of Eden, watering the garden and then dividing into four branches" (Genesis 2:10). The final chapter in the Bible also speaks of a river. "Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations" (Revelation 22:1-2).

I'll talk more about rivers in the future and especially about their symbolic role in the scriptures. For now, I just want to ask for prayer: prayer for Cornerstone...and prayer for Grace River.